Saturday, October 22, 2011

Letters from the Front - Henry Abbott

Tuesday, October 22, 1861
Lieutenant Henry Abbott penned another letter to his father, explaining the horrific events at Ball’s Bluff in greater detail. Selected excerpts are presented below:
The fight was made up of charges. You would see our capts. rush out in front & cry forward & their companies would follow them at full speed under a tremendous fire till they were obliged to fall back. And this was repeated over & over during the 4 hours fight…
The general [Baker] was killed ... & Col. Lee ordered a retreat... we all started down the bank, every body knowing, however, that there was no chance of an escape. The col. ordered a surrender & had a white flag raised but the rebels fired upon us & we were obliged to retreat to the river's edge, the rebels pouring down a murderous fire…

Abbott noted that Company A suffered heavy casualties during the battle. He observed, "Tremlett's company got the worst of it…" Abbott recounted his escape down the river bank with Captains Bartlett and Tremlett and Lieutenant Whittier and men from their respective companies, Companies I and A. The officers sent enlisted men across the river by fives in a boat, with the officers leaving last. He followed this observation with an expectation of reprisal: “The little midnight adventure of ours has started the whole thing: now we shall have our revenge...”

He concluded his letter optimistically, praising the endurance of the soldiers under heavy fire: “The good of the action is this. It shows the pluck of our men. They followed their commanders admirably, except in the last charge that we made…”1

1Robert Garth Scott, editor, Fallen Leaves: The Civil War Letters of Major Henry Livermore Abbott (Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 1991), 60-66.

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